By Elise Kidd
BIRMINGHAM — As high school students prepare to apply for college, many of them may struggle with the stress and pressure that comes with applying to the institution that will factor into their future. Within the structure of the United State’s school system, there is a push for students to attend college; but for some students, college has never been a goal, or the idea of college is practically impossible. In fact, approximately 30% of students don’t attend college.
Lori Lightsey, principal of Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School (JCIB), has been in education over 30 years.
“In a typical high school setting, I believe the amount of students who struggle with the idea of college is at least half,” said Lightsey. “There’s around 50% of students who have an interest in college but on the other side, there’s 50% who would rather go into vocational training or directly into the military.”
Many students do turn to JROTC programs at their high school or enlist in the military. In Alabama, there are also other choices such as the vocational school, Alabama Academy of Craft Training in Birmingham. Students can gain instruction and skills that can lead to jobs earning around $80,000 a year.
Lightsey said a lot of students are unaware of their options. She said the future of the United States depends on technical training and jobs.
“I think we’ve done a huge disservice in the past 10 – 15 years, by over-promoting college to students versus promoting vocational training or two-year training. I believe we’ve made students think that they’re really only valuable and successful if you go to college but that’s not true. Truthfully, no country will be able to function and fill jobs if we stay in that mindset.” Lightsey offers.
The construction industry is always in demand for jobs. As of June 2018, there were around 263,000 open positions in construction.
In addition to the construction industry, there are public servant jobs such as firefighters or police officers that offer government employee benefits.
Cpt. Chris Franklin, of Trussville Fire and Rescue, serves as a training officer and as the instructor of the Fire and Emergency Services Academy at Hewitt-Trussville High School. Franklin said the Fire and Emergency Services Academy is one of the many career tech class options offered at Hewitt-Trussville. It allows students to earn a good background in fire training.
“State laws and the certification process doesn’t allow Fire and Emergency Services Academy participants to immediately join the force after high school,” said Franklin. “But, it will allow these participating students to leave high school with enough experience and skills they will be prepared to take the next step.”
Franklin encourages students to take up the dual enrollment option at their school or go to an EMT school after graduation. From there, they should go to recruitment training.
Franklin said that there are a lot of jobs that don’t require higher than high school education.
“Those jobs sadly aren’t pushed very much but they don’t require much formal education and still pay very well,” Franklin explained. “As long as these people can fill the requirements, both physically and academically that is all that matters with these types of jobs…The most important thing is people need to want to do these jobs.”
Principal Lightsey said students should be able to get as many certifications as possible while they are still in high school. Lightsey also recognizes the importance of dual enrollment. In the end, educators want to see students succeed in their personal and professional endeavors.
“We need to promote these students to follow their passions, no matter what they are,” said Lightsey. “And that passion doesn’t have to be college.”
For more information on opportunities for your child, speak with their school counselor or principal.